Morning After Pill & Emergency Contraceptives

Emergency contraceptive pills often referred to as the “morning after pill” is a commonly used method to prevent pregnancy after sexual intercourse. Emergency contraceptive pills were developed to be used prior to sexual intercourse but can be effective up to 72 hours after intercourse warranting the common name, “morning after” pill. The widespread use of the morning after pill in South Africa is a cause for concern as it indicates that suitable methods of STD (sexually transmitted disease) prevention, like condoms, is not being utilized consistently given the high HIV/AIDS prevalence within the country.

Morning After Pill Prices & Availability

There are two types of morning after pill – the high dose hormone type or an anti-hormone pill. The anti-hormone morning after pill can be used to induce an abortion up to two months into pregnancy. It is advisable that you seek the advice pf a medical professional, your general practitioner or gynecologist, before using the morning after pill. Emergency contraceptive pills (high dose hormone pills) are available at most South African pharmacies and is available over-the-counter without a prescription if you are over 16 years old. If you are under the age of 16 years, you will require a prescription from a doctor to purchase the morning after pill at your pharmacy.

It is important to note that you should NOT buy the morning after pill from street peddlers. They may assure you that they are selling you a safe emergency contraceptive pill but there are numerous cases of low quality counterfeit drugs causing severe long term complications. The morning after pill is not expensive and easily available at your pharmacy. Do not be fooled by those claiming to be off duty “nurses” and “pharmacy assistants” who are willing to sell you a pill for an exorbitant price. If you have not consulted with your doctor, at least take the time to converse with the pharmacist so that you can make an informed decision.  You can also phone your pharmacy anonymously and discuss the morning after pill availability, safety and prices with a registered pharmacist.

Morning After Pill Side Effects

The morning after pill is similar to other contraceptives – the “injection”, “pill” or contraceptive patch but the side effects can be quite severe.

Some of the side effects reported :

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting – if you vomit within 2 hours after taking the morning after pill, it may be necessary to take another dose. Speak to your pharmacist or doctor should this be the case.
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Breast Tenderness

Fortunately these side effects resolve after 24 to 72 hours.

Dangers of the Morning After Pill

Apart from a late period or abnormal periods following the use of the morning after pill, emergency contraceptives are safe provided that you purchased it from a pharmacy and was advised by a health care professional on how to use it. If you are uncertain about using an emergency contraceptive pill, you may want to consider other alternatives like the UID (intrauterine device). The biggest danger with regular users of the morning after pill is that they are repeatedly engaging in unprotected sex with a single or many partners. This may not be the case with every woman using the morning after pill but the popularity of emergency contraceptives among teenagers indicates irresponsible sexual behaviour.

The current HIV/AIDS pandemic in South Africa means that you are at a high risk of contracting HIV should you be engaging in unprotected sex on a regular basis. While you may be concerned with pregnancy and you may be unprepared for parenthood, having unprotected sex could mean the difference between life and death in the long run. It is advisable that you always use a condom and not rely on other forms of contraception.